One week ago I had a long conversation with a group, an educated , seemingly sensible group of people, all of them extremely close to me.
About how what women wear do not define them.
About how even nuns , 6 year old children and 80 year old women get raped.
About how what I wear is never an invitation, and is always subjective, like how a salwar-kameez is acceptable in most places but isn’t enough in many other places on this globe, about how I have to probably cover my ankles and head to not be lynched or jailed in some countries and how its all about freedom.
About how women do not invite just because they are out at 9 PM, and how sometimes work might take them out too.
About how it is important to raise our sons well , to teach them to respect women irrespective of what they are wearing.
About how its not important that a woman should feel like a mother or a sister for a man to be able to not pass lewd remarks on her and that the fact that she is a human being is enough for her to get a respect given to one.
I gave examples where I, someone they loved a lot, have done all of the things they think are incorrect behaviors for girls and asked if I am one of those women who invite lewd comments too? I pointed examples of how many men including the sons they’ve raised themselves do not think like this, indicating that they probably did a fine job with their children, and now its time for them to change their thought process and mindset for good and not be judgmental about women.
The conversation turned into a verbal fight in no time, and I fought through this conversation giving examples till it got almost out of hand. And I gave up.
About two days ago, I read the article on the documentary made on India’s Daughter and felt my blood boil till it almost frothed over. And I thought back about the conversation, rather the fight I had the week ago on a similar issue.
Then I saw the short speech Kirron Kher gave in the Parliament on YouTube last night. And I saw it again. And again. And again. Till I got almost everything she said by heart.
And I felt the tears coming up. For myself and for the billions of women around the world who face prejudices.
And this morning, I saw this – the very short speech Javed Akhtar gave on the same issue in the Parliament. And his words struck me like lightning – “This documentary will reveal how many men think like Nirbhaya’s rapist”
These words just sapped the entire energy from me… and I felt despair. And gloom. And I realized that Akhtar had a very true, very valid point.
Personally, I’ve had the privilege to know some really good men. Rational in their thought, respectful of human beings irrespective of their gender, open to new ideas and mindsets, invested in bettering themselves in all respects – in general , really good citizens. The mere fact that I haven’t met men like the ones mentioned by Akhtar from close quarters doesn’t mean they aren’t around. I am aware of the painful fact that there definitely are men who think like that. But what brought me down totally was how aware I was of the fact that there are women also who think like this.
Trust me, I never believed that a woman is a woman’s enemy, like the old adage goes. In fact, in my case that’s never been true, because most of my role-models and mentors are women. They have taught me, mentored me and hand-held me at various stages in life and career either with their sheer presence or with words and actions so strong that I cannot forget what they’ve done for me ever. And I’ve tried to do the same to other women myself, will continue to do so.
But what is painfully true even to this day is that there are women who judge other women. To the extent of outrage, many of them think like Nirbhaya’s rapist. And they bring up children, who grow up to be the next generation in this world.
And that scares me.
The fact that this is not something that will end with this generation, but that we will have to live with this mindset for few more generations before it finally ends (will it, ever?) is something that takes the will and zest out of me.
Really, how can the change in mindset really occur? From grass-root level? How?
If we do not let our girls study, if we genuinely believe that girls needn’t study beyond graduation because they will get married anyway.
If we let our sons know through actions that it is okay for them to judge women based on looks, clothes, color, status.
If we believe that a girl needs to be controlled if she is working and her independence needs to be stripped off somehow.
If being a feminist is offensive.
If having guy friends and going out at night is bad behavior warranting punishment.